National Update July 2013

Welcome to the July edition of National Update with latest news from the Assembly.

Just a Thought

Rev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary, Assembly

Terrence

I have just attended the triennial forum of the National Council of Churches in Australia. The Uniting Church is one of 19 member churches which span a range of denominations that many members of our church have probably never had the opportunity to meet. It is a wonderful occasion where those who attend are treated to an experience of the diversity of the church across Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

It is self-evident that there are major differences in the way we are organised, worship, engage in mission, understand theology and in our convictions. Yet we are able to have a rich and supportive fellowship. To be in such a meeting is to be reminded of the miracle of grace that is the work of God in Christ that allows such a diversity of people to understand themselves to be one family. Read more

As a denomination, the Uniting Church is committed to ecumenism and is very supportive of many aspects of this endeavour locally, nationally and internationally. Another way to express the ecumenical character of the Uniting Church is by being ecumenical within the life of our own congregations. Differences in theology, worship preference, convictions and understandings of mission too often break our fellowship and damage our life as a community of faith.

The challenge for the Uniting Church is always to continue to affirm and embrace diversity - to be an inclusive church. It’s easier to accept different understandings about our valued convictions when we only meet every now and again. It is much harder to be ecumenical when we work and worship with people all the time. When we are able to do this then perhaps others will see the miracle of grace that is the work of God in Christ that allows such a diversity of people to understand themselves to be one family.

 

From the President

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Assembly

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 From the President's blog: how do I love my neighbour?

When he was sworn in as a Parliamentary Secretary this month, Western Sydney MP Ed Husic became the first Australian Federal Member of Parliament to take his ministerial oath on the Koran. Although the Governor General, his fellow parliamentarians and most sectors of the community celebrated this event as a sign of the success of Australia as a multicultural community, Mr Husic also became a target of abuse on social media. Read more

I was glad to join the Rev. Glenda Blakefield (the National Director responsible for the Uniting Church’s relations with other faiths) in making a public statement calling on all Australians to respect each other’s faith. As Glenda said, “God delights in diversity and seeks unity from us, which is why we work towards creating relationships with other faiths as an important part of our ministry.” (On the Assembly website)

Respect the faith of others as you would want them to respect your faith. In the context of the flaming of Ed Husic on social media, I think this is a fair rendering of Jesus’ command in Mathew 7:12. Continue reading on the President's blog... 

Outback care and community services

Rosemary Young AM, National Director, Frontier Services

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Fire up the BBQ!

The Great Outback BBQ is a fun way for people to come together, have a good time and support the work of Frontier Services. By hosting your own Great Outback BBQ event, you will help Frontier Services go the extra mile for people in the outback. The Great Outback BBQ will be launched on weekend of 31 August-1 September. You can hold your BBQ any day in September, or later in spring or summer if that suits better.​ You may even decide to host a Billy Morning Tea! How you run your event is entirely up to you. Read more

After you have registered you will receive a Host Pack filled with helpful information to make your event a roaring success.

Since 2011, the Great Outback BBQ has raised more than $140,000 for people living in remote Australia with BBQs being hosted all over Australia. The money raised assists Frontier Services to provide vital services across 85 per cent of the continent. Every donation keeps us on the road supporting remote communities. To register your event or find out more information, go to www.greatoutbackbbq.com

 

Relations with Other Faiths

Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary, Assembly

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ROF welcomes new Education Projects Officer

Dominique Khoury will act as the Education Projects Officer working in the Uniting Faith and Discipleship team, particualrly within Relations with Other Faiths and Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry. Her role is to co-ordinate and produce educational projects and any associated key educational resources. 

Her background is in social work and she has worked in the welfare industry for eight years at a 'grass roots' level with people from all walks of life. She is looking forward to working to produce effective and rich resources for the Uniting Church Assembly in this role.

A Prayer for Friendship in the Presence of Difference

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, the President of the Uniting Church Assembly, has called on Australians to show due respect for each other’s faith, after a Muslim MP was vilified for choosing to swear his oath of office on the Koran.

Western Sydney MP Ed Husic became the first Australian Federal Member of Parliament to take his ministerial oath on the Koran when sworn in as a Parliamentary Secretary this week. He subsequently became a target of abuse on social media. Read more

“This was a moment in our history as a nation to celebrate our diversity and our success as a multicultural society,” said Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney.

“Instead Australians of goodwill are again forced to rebut attacks that display the worst kind of religious intolerance.”

“The representation of people of all faiths in our Parliament is something of which we can be justly proud.”

The National Director responsible for the Uniting Church’s relations with other faiths, Rev. Glenda Blakefield, has called on Australians of all faiths – and those of no faith as well - to open their hearts in friendship to those who are different from us. 

“We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves, regardless of religion, culture, ethnicity or beliefs,” said Rev. Blakefield.

“The Uniting Church in Australia actively seeks to promote the knowledge and understanding of other living world faiths and communities through our Relations with Other Faiths work.”

“This ministry, which works with Islamic, Jewish and other faiths, acknowledges the Uniting Church’s role in our multicultural and multi-faith society.”

“God delights in diversity and seeks unity from us, which is why we work towards creating relationships with other faiths as an important part of our ministry,” said Rev. Blakefield, who is also Associate General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia.

 

Worship, theology and discipleship

Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship, Assembly

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The Doctrine working group met this month to discuss a variety of issues.

Time was given to considering the four studies that are being developed for “A Season of Teaching and Learning” in 2014.There will also be a list of Recommended Resources to choose from. These will be available from MediaCom.org.auRead more

In relation to the issue of marriage, initial consultations led by some trained facilitators in selected presbyteries and other groups are taking place.  Rob Bos will collate the responses which will inform the discussion paper on marriage that will be written and distributed across the church.

Time was also given to hearing from the task groups organising the ‘Back to Back’ conferences on the Basis of Union and Preaching will be held on 22-24 August and 25 – 28 August, 2014 at the Centre for Ministry in Sydney.  The main speaker for the Preaching Conference will be Anna Carter Florence from the USA. 

The Mission and Evangelism Network, through Peter Armstrong and Ruthmary Bond, are organising a national Mission and Evangelism conference, “A Clear Call,” to be held in Adelaide on 28-30 March, 2014.  Key speakers will be John and Olive Drane from Scotland.  In the week following there will be an intensive led by the Dranes at Uniting College.

Calling all Hymn Writers

The Australian Hymn Book Company (owned by Australian churches) has announced an international hymn competition for hymn texts on the theological emphases of St Paul. The closing date for submissions is 31 July. Full details are at www.togetherinsong.org

Advent - Christmas 2013 resources

MediaCom has released its annual Advent and Christmas calendar with books, resources and media for the 2013 Christmas period. Be sure to plan and order early to be ready for Advent on December 1. You can view their catalogue online at www.mediacom.org.au or order by calling 1800 811 311 (toll free).

 

Cross cultural and international ministry, relief and development

Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, National Director, UnitingWorld

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International volunteering: “it’s all about relationships”

Last month guests from around Australia and abroad gathered in Sydney to immerse themselves in the colourful world of international volunteering.

Hosted in partnership by UnitingWorld and Austraining International, the evening showcased the involvement of Australian Partner Organisations in the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an AusAID initiative that deploys skilled volunteers to live and work in developing countries as part of the overseas aid program. The event focused on what it looks like to volunteer alongside local communities and the support Australian organisations can provide. Read more

Guest speakers, including returned UnitingWorld Experience volunteers Elizabeth Mullan and Laura McGilvray and ‘Aioema ‘Atiola from Host Organisation The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, explored the real difference funded and well-supported volunteering makes towards sustainable development and capacity building.

Read the full article here.

Anyone considering a volunteer placement overseas can contact Laura McGilvray at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 02 8267 4222. For more information about becoming an Australian Partner Organisation please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

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Power of God’s love on display at UCA Tongan National Conference

More than 1000 Tongan members of the Uniting Church in Australia, their friends and supporters gathered at Kurrajong at the foot of the Blue Mountains from 7-10 June to take part in the annual Tongan National Conference (TNC).

The theme of this year’s TNC was the “Power of God’s Love” and program of worship services, Bible studies, youth and young adults’ program, Choir festival, cultural night, skits and items all reflected that theme. Read more

Among several guests of the TNC were the President of the Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga, Rev. Dr 'Ahio and his wife Mrs Loukinikini 'Ahio, National Consultant on Theology and Discipleship Rev. Dr Chris Walker, UnitingWorld National Director Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, and Assembly General Secretary Rev Terence Corkin. Dr and Mrs ‘Ahio brought greetings from Tonga's King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u, and the Conference of The Free Wesleyan Church. Queen Nanasipauʻu sent her apology to the TNC. Both the King and Queen were active members of the UCA while they lived in Canberra, and consider themselves to be so whenever they visit Australia. They are also active supporters of the UCA in Tonga and very encouraging of Tongan members of the UCA here. 

“Over this long weekend we have truly witnessed the power of God’s love in the strength of our faith and our Tongan culture in the Uniting Church in Australia,” said TNC Chairperson Rev. Jason Kioa.

“For the very first time a congregation of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga attended the TNC along with their local UCA Tongan speaking community in Adelaide. The two ministers and their communities are committed to learning and working together. This is very significant for the Church in Tonga and the UCA.

“In Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in which the Jannali Uniting Church is placed these two Tongan ministers are providing a wonderful lead as they work and minister together in a genuine team. With God’s blessing, our fellowship of believers continues to grow and our ministry is flourishing.”

The Opening Service on Friday 7 July was led by TNC Deputy Chair, Rev. Alimoni Taumoepeau of Blaxland Uniting Church and included performances by no less than 15 Tongan youth choirs from around the country. Dr ‘Ahio preached on Sunday and the chairperson Rev Jason Kioa on Monday when recently ordained UCA ministers Rev. Salesi Faupula of Jannali Uniting Church and Rev. Fa Ngaluafe of Chermside-Kedron Community Church in Brisbane led the Communion Service. Both services included major contributions by more than 10 choirs with Monday’s concluding with the Hallelujah Chorus, sung in Tongan.

The Conference over the June long weekend also saw many joyful expressions of culture, particularly on the traditional ‘cultural night’ song and dance performances on Saturday, when more than $25,000 was raised for TNC projects.

A number of prominent UCA Tongan leaders and elders were also honoured at a Po Lotu (speeches and choirs) event for their contributions to the faith life and leadership in ministry in Tonga and in Australia, and in the Uniting Church in Australia: 

  • Mrs Sioana Faupula, member of Toe Talatalanoa congregation at Canberra City UC,  mother of Salesi, a prominent leader among Tongan women, and leader of the Children’s ministry team at the TNC; 
  • Rev. Sione Alo Fakahua, a retired FWCT and UCA minister, whose daughter Rev Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe is the minister at Auburn Uniting Church in Sydney;
  • Rev. Supeli Taliai, the former Principal of Tupou College, Tonga’s oldest secondary school.

The UCA’s National Director of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry, Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, said “the TNC continues to go from strength to strength supported by so many of all ages for this 26th time.” He also hailed “the extraordinary work, respect, gifts and faithfulness of the 2nd Gen youth and young adults’ team who are strongly supported and encouraged by the TNC National Executive Committee members and others. They brought the theme – the Power of God’s love - to life.”

“When congregations from all over Australia come together like this the fellowship is overpowering,” said Rev. Dr Floyd.

“Seeing the Spirit at work in the communities present this weekend, and the growing number of young families attending TNC, makes me proud that we in the Uniting Church continue to journey on the way to fulfilling God’s mission for us to be a church for all God’s people.”

Organisers say they anticipate the Conference will attract even more people next year because of the enthusiasm and spiritual nourishment offered and the positive experience of those who attended this year. 

Breaking Calabashes - becoming an intercultural community

In this simple, easy to read book Rosemary Dewerse succeeds in taking us into critical inter-cultural space with profound care but unavoidable clarity.

Drawing on a true story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, legendary across Maori communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Rosemary frames the book around exploring four particular “calabashes” that many of our church communities have become locked into – definite ideas on what is acceptable and who is acceptable. Read more

We are taken on this challenging journey through the framework of Rosemary’s experience, scholarship, substantial personal and familial inter-cultural experience, careful listening and honouring of the stories, insights, experiences and questions of a diverse group of people from a variety of cultural/language backgrounds and settings.

“In this book Rosemary Dewerse dares us to see through our self-deception and glimpse the truly revolutionary premise of the Gospel – a genuinely intercultural community in Christ, where ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Chris Jesus.’

Scholarly and personal, visionary and practical – this is good reading! I warmly welcome this timely book and encourage Christians everywhere to read it, together if possible, and to practice the principles of intercultural living and the discipleship it uncovers.”

Rev. Prof Andrew Dutney, President of the Uniting Church in Australia

“This is a beautifully theologically nuanced guide book in which Rosemary describes not only how to recognise and confront any humanly constructed device intended to exclude, diminish, caricature, or stereotype any of God’s perfectly created human beings, but more importantly teaches practical and achievable ways of ensuring that all are ultimately invited and fully enabled to be authentically and justly ‘members of the household of God.’”

Jenny Te Paa-Daniels, Maori Research Fellow, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Otago University, Aotearoa New Zealand

“This is a readable, focussed, practical and compelling book that is timely for the Uniting Church and Australian society. The author’s scholarship is plain while her ability to dig deep with simplicity, relevance and genuine respect are what makes this book important for all who want to become genuinely intercultural in their life and faith.”

Tony Floyd, National Director, Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry, National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia

See the full review and pre-purchase ‘Breaking Calabashes’ at MediaCom.org.au. A study guide for leaders will also be made available through the website after its release.

Justice and advocacy

Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice

Elenie smallThe UnitingJustice Team is back!

With our National Director Elenie and our Senior Policy Officer Siobhan away from April to June, we imagine it was rather quiet in the National Assembly offices!

Thankfully, the team is back and ready to tackle the challenges of an upcoming election, Ministry reshuffles, and new policy directions - with more energy and enthusiasm than ever.

Remember, you can follow UnitingJustice on Twitter @UnitingJustice to stay in touch with us and our work between newsletters.

A Just Society: your faith, your voice, your vote

In the Statement to the Nation made by the first Assembly in 1977, the Uniting Church in Australia recognised that Christian responsibility to society is fundamental to the mission of the Church. It promised that our response to the Christian gospel would always involve us in social and national affairs.

That's one of the reasons why the federal election resource - A Just Society - is so important. It is an expression of our faith as Christians and citizens of this country, and our commitment to share with all Australians in the search for meaning, purpose and community in life. Read more

The resource, which has been distributed to Synod offices throughout Australia, includes materials prepared by various Assembly and Synod agencies and Uniting Church members. It features a booklet (with a preface from President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney), website with longer and more detailed Issues Papers, a series of Hot Issues Briefs, and an Election Toolkit which covers how to organise an election forum, ideas for active citizenship and prayers for use in worship in the weeks leading up to the election.

All of the resources are available online.

There are limited printed copies available of the Booklet and the Hot Issues Briefs. Please contact your synod office for your copy of this wonderful resource.

Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill

After plans to consolidate Commonwealth discrimination laws were put on hold, the Federal Government tabled proposed changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 in April of this year. The amendments were designed to prohibit discrimination and provide – for the first time at the Federal level – protections in areas such as accommodation and healthcare on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Read more

One controversial aspect of the proposed legislation was the inclusion of exceptions for religious organisations for the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services.

UnitingJustice wrote to the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and all Parliamentarians to express our concern over these exceptions. The letter acknowledged that there are no publicly defensible grounds for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (GLTBI) persons by Commonwealth-funded aged care services.

NGO Forum on Human Rights

National Director Elenie Poulos visited Canberra in June to attend the annual NGO Forum on Human Rights. Read more

The forum, organised by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is an opportunity to connect with other organisations advocating for the advancement of human rights in Australia. Many issues pertinent to the work of UnitingJustice were discussed at the meeting, including discrimination laws, refugees and asylum seekers, and the status of women.

While in Canberra, Elenie took the opportunity to speak with Parliamentarians about the work of UnitingJustice and the recently released Federal election resource.

Ending Child Detention

UnitingJustice continues its advocacy in all areas of refugee and asylum seeker policy, with a special focus on one of the most vulnerable groups – children in immigration detention. Our work with the newly-formed coalition End Child Detention Australia has allowed us to engage directly with young people in schools through the Detention 4 Detention program. Read more

High school students throughout Australia are encouraged to take a voluntary lunchtime detention to raise awareness of young people in immigration detention facilities. UnitingJustice prepared the resources for the program, which are free to download here. If you would like further information on ending child detention or our work on asylum seeker and refugee policy, please email UnitingJustice’s Senior Policy Officer Siobhan Marren at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

UnitingCare Australia

Lin Hattfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia

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Report Highlights Shortfall of Newstart

UnitingCare Australia released a report last month showing Australians who are experiencing financial hardship are not able to make ends meet because welfare payments are too low. 

The report found that the majority of people seeking emergency relief and financial counselling from UnitingCare agencies across Australia were recipients of Newstart Allowance, and were unable to afford food and energy bills.

National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said inadequate support is forcing vulnerable people into deeper poverty, entrenching their disadvantage, and making it increasingly difficult for them to get a job. Read more

“The current rate of unemployment payments barely covers housing and energy bills, let alone rising costs of food and education, or the costs of seeking work.

“Parents feel their children are missing out on healthy food, school materials and sporting activities. 

“People want to work or increase their hours but are held back by the costs of transport and childcare. 

“As we face the upcoming election we call upon all parties to commit to an increase in Newstart Allowance and fund the supports that struggling families need to participate fully in our community.”

Historic Aged Care Reform Passed

UnitingCare Australia has hailed last month's successful passage of the Living Longer Living Better package of aged care reform bills through Parliament as an historic moment for older Australians.

Speaking immediately after the bills were passed, UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, gave credit to all parliamentarians who recognised that Australia’s aged care system was broken and resolved to reform it. Read more

“The passage of this legislation is a significant achievement. We commend Minister Mark Butler who worked closely with older Australians and the aged care sector to deliver a very solid reform package,” she said.

Ms Hatfield Dodds said the reforms had been the result of consultation dating back to the release of the Productivity Commission’s Report Caring for Older Australians in 2011.

“Today Australia has made a significant step in implementing key recommendations of that report,” she said.

“Today’s reform package was strengthened by the work of the Senate Committee, and in particular the work of Senator Rachel Siewert.”

“Australia’s growing ageing population is engaged and informed. Regardless of frailty or disability, they expect to have access to the services that allow them to maintain their health, their autonomy and their dignity.

“It makes good social and economic sense to invest in the wellbeing of older people so they can remain healthy, active members of their communities.”

“The passage of this legislation today is an important measure of progress towards this goal,” Ms Hatfield Dodds concluded.

 

Other Assembly news

National Youth Ministry Training 2013

We're taking a brand new direction with our National Youth Ministry Training. In the past, it was an in-service event for professional youth workers. Now it is much more!

We're inviting volunteer youth leaders, young adult mentors, professional youth workers/young adult workers, MOWs, and pastors to participate. Come on your own or come with your local ministry team members!

The National Youth Ministry Training will attend the 'National Youth Ministry Conference' (NYMC), www.nymc.org.au, the year's largest youth ministry training ecumenical event. We'll participate together as a Uniting Church cohort alongside other denominations. Read more

NYMC will have over 600 participants from various different youth ministries. There will be many great guest speakers, a ministry expo and some special UCA events. We will be surrounded by practitioners from all over Australia, from many different contexts that we can learn from and share with.

The event will take place from the 23rd to the 27th of October in Tweed on the Gold Coast. The Uniting Church has booked out the Tweed Central Motel with the cost of accommodation included in the total training cost.

The total cost is $400 if you register before the 31st of July.

You will need to register through the Assembly booking system in order to secure your place. Registration forms and further information are available online. See the Assembly website for more information.

The Transit Lounge

The Transit Lounge is the youth online publication of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly. You can find the publication at www.thetransitlounge.com.au.

If you know any young communicators or young people who would like to contribute, please contact usvia the Transit Lounge website.

Want to hear more? Subscribe to the Transit Lounge! You’ll receive monthly newsletters with the latest church, world, faith and other news right to your inbox. Also, take a look at Transit Lounge on Facebook and Twitter for extra content and to have your say on issues facing young people of faith today. 

Synod news

To find out about what is happening across the country visit the Synod news sites below:

New South Wales and the ACT - Insights
Northern Synod - Northern News
Queensland - Journey
South Australia - New Times
Victoria and Tasmania - Crosslight
Western Australia - Revive

To learn more about employment and other Assembly news go to www.assembly.uca.org.au

Please feel free to republish anything in the national Update with an acknowledgement of Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.

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For Multicultural and Cross Cultural inquiries

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